On October 27, families, faculty, and staff gathered on the Lower School soccer field to watch Ross fourth graders present their interpretations of Paleolithic clan rituals. The production was the culmination of their studies of Paleolithic communities and culture, as each group celebrated the life or mourned the death of their “clan baby.”
The Paleolithic era marked a great expansion in human creativity, as they began to devise tools made of bone or stone, create works of art in the form of carvings and drawings on cave walls, and enact religious and spiritual behaviors such as birth, death, and burial rituals. To help students better experience the time period, the class was divided into four clans and asked to name their community after a spirit animal. The Gorilla clan settled in Asia, the Deer clan in North America, the Bison clan in Europe, and the Jaguar clan in South America.
Next, each clan received an egg, or “clan baby,” to nurture for five days. The experience was meant to help students understand how a Paleolithic community subsisted when danger was everywhere and resources were few. Survival depended upon working together and following the core values of the community. Babies were very important because they represented the life of the clan, and that life was fragile.
Students were responsible for the care and protection of their egg baby, and they shared responsibilities with their clan members. In the end, two of the four egg babies survived; in response, each clan developed its own ritual focusing on the life or death of their baby.
The learning experience was a prime example of interdisciplinary study at Ross. Students learned about Paleolithic history in their Cultural History class, fashioned nests for their egg babies in Visual Arts, created and rehearsed their rituals during Theater, and worked with primitive instruments to accompany their ritual in Music.
The four final productions were beautiful and creative, incorporating each clan’s own language, artifacts, and costumes portraying the clan’s spirit animal. Their original songs included the sounds of the ancient flute and drums.
Fourth grade Teacher Alicia Schordine said that the class discussed how their experiences related to the Ross Core Values throughout the project, particularly with respect to mindfulness. “Mindfulness can be a difficult value to grasp, but the time and care involved with protecting their egg baby really helped the students understand its meaning and importance,” Alicia said.